Laying the Foundation for Africa’s Silicon Valley

Laying the Foundation for Africa’s Silicon Valley
Laying the Foundation for Africa’s Silicon Valley. Image source: Unsplash

Since the dawn of the internet Africa has been on the back foot of technological development in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

This is due to a number of reasons which include a lack of infrastructure and resources. According to the International Monetary fund this has resulted in only 28 percent of the continent making use of the internet as of 2021. This phenomenon has far reaching consequences and affects all spheres of life from social to economic.

The world is well into the Fourth Industrial revolution which will further exacerbate the digital divide on the continent, as well as in other parts of the developing world if this is not addressed. However, countries like Rwanda have attracted billions of dollars in investments for tech start-up and innovation, spurring inclusive growth in the ICT sector.

Moving from internet connectivity to innovation

As one of the fastest growing economies on the continent, Rwanda has made a number of large investments in expanding its tech infrastructure, building a nationwide fibre optic network and creating tech hubs and incubators. In addition to this the government has launched initiatives that are aimed at providing funding and training for tech start-ups.

This has resulted in Rwanda positioning itself at the gateway for successful tech start-ups, operating in diverse sectors such as education, healthcare, agriculture and finance. These start-ups focus on addressing more than the issue of connectivity by providing practical solutions to complex issues that have been challenging to address without the collaboration of private enterprise and government.

Zipline is one such enterprise, a start-up that has revolutionised the delivery of blood and other medical supplies, using autonomous drones, reaching remote and rural communities that normally travel hours to receive treatment in the nearest city. IREM is another success story and focuses on developing software that helps farmers improve their yield, thus improving efficiency and increasing crop production.

Promoting inclusivity and equal opportunity

Rwanda has placed emphasis on affording opportunities to women who tend to find themselves at the periphery of technological development. Women play a key role in shaping the tech industry in the country, ascending to top positions in the tech industry. Since 2016, a quarter of the tech jobs were held by women which is a drastic increase from prior years.

Kosmotive is a enterprise started by a young women in Rwanda that focuses on addressing issues related to reproductive, maternal and child health in Rwanda. Their goal is to provide access to menstrual, maternal and child health information and products. This is achieved through the KosmoHealth App and Helpline, Cosmos Magazine, KosmoWearables collections of maternity and nursing wear and reusable sanitary KosmoPads.

This multi-award-winning initiative is a result of Rwanda’s investment not only in the tech sector but in innovations that have a real-life impact on women’s health and society as a whole. Such innovations play a critical role in fostering interest in technology among girls and providing them with the necessary tools to compete in the tech industry.